Displaying Your Collections

Putting our prized possessions away in cold, dark storage is good for their longevity, but not for our enjoyment of them. If you want to display your collections, there are options that will help you to protect them. One easy option is to consider making a paper copy of your item and displaying it instead. When framed, it is often difficult to distinguish a digital printout from an original document or photograph. Also, limit the time you display an object; consider bringing it out for special occasions or holidays to limit its exposure to light, which causes fading and discoloration. Use shades and curtains to reduce the light from windows. Create your own exhibition schedule, rotating pieces to limit their exposure to light and dust.

Custom matting and framing is an ideal approach for a wide range of personal mementos.

Professional Framing

Seek the services of a reputable framer for displaying your most treasured collections. Ask questions about the techniques and materials they use. High-quality framing may be expensive, but it is an investment in the long-term preservation of your collections.

Proper framing is crucial for the longevity of a displayed artifact. Make sure that all materials that touch the artifact are acid-free and lignin-free. Hinging materials should be made of stable materials that can be easily removed from the object, such as Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. A backboard should be placed on the back of the framing package and sealed with backing paper and acrylic adhesive tape to protect the item from dust, dirt, and pollutants.

A properly framed item should include all of the above layers.


Today’s options for making high-quality and faithful reproductions through scanning and digital printing make it easier than ever to protect valuable or fragile originals. These postcards were imaged and reprinted for a student-curated exhibition in Sterling Library’s Memorabilia Room.

These postcard reproductions were part of An American and Nothing Else: The Great War and the Battle for National Belonging, a graduate-student curated exhibition.

Display Options

There are enclosures with clear windows or lids, like flag boxes and acrylic display vitrines, that allow you to see the contents and can serve as both display and storage.

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